1 Samuel 22:16-19 records an absolutely terrible incident where Saul ordered the deaths of many innocent people. It gives us a shock to realise that Saul had become so wicked.
However, it was not the only time when Saul did such a thing. 2 Samuel 21:1 records how he carried out a similar attack against the inhabitants of Gibeon.
The incident in 1 Samuel 22:16-19 was against the most important priests in Israel. Even Ahimelech, the chief priest, died in that incident. In fact, nearly everyone who came from the family of Eli died then. Long before, God had warned Eli that this would happen (2:30-33).
Saulís excuse for this attack was that the priests were plotting against him (22:13). That was completely untrue. Even David was not plotting against Saul. Ahimelech had helped David; but Ahimelech did not know that Saul was angry with David. The other priests and their families did not even know what Ahimelech had done.
Probably even Saul knew that his excuse was untrue. The reality was that Saul always tried to control people by fear. He wanted people to be afraid of him because then they would obey him.
Saul would make people very afraid if he killed the chief priest. That was what Saul thought. By that action, Saul would show everyone that he was not even afraid of God. Then people would not dare to support David. They would have to do whatever Saul wanted them to do. However, even the death of such an important and holy man as the chief priest did not satisfy Saulís anger. Really, of course, Saul wanted to kill David. However, in the meantime, he ordered the deaths of 85 priests from Ahimelechís family.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.